Living Laboratories of Home Technology

Equinox touchpads and Italian-designed Axolute keypads were mounted to the walls throughout the house.

A real home is the best test lab for a home automation system.


Nov. 07, 2013 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

There’s a lot of research, engineering and design work that goes behind the production of a home control system; sometimes it takes years before it has been perfected to the point of being a viable, marketable product.

In the case of Legrand/Vantage, the testing of its systems is extensive, involving exhaustive case studies in the homes of company employees as well as non-techy homeowners. “We follow the users over a period of time and record how the operation of the system fits their lifestyle,” says Vantage president Doug Fikse. Based on those findings, the company will go back to the drawing board to work out any bugs or to revamp a particular design element. It was through 4 years of testing, says Fikse that the company developed its Adorne line of wiring products.

More recently, Fikse had the opportunity to give Vantage’s inFusion automation system with its new Equinox touchpads a whirl in his own house. Fikse and his wife had already been using a home control system in their 6,000-square-foot residence; the switch to the inFusion/Equinox system was a “complete overhaul.” Some of the existing subsystems were upgraded and several of Vantage’s new Equinox touchpads and Italian-designed Axolute keypads were mounted to the walls throughout the house.

With installation help from the custom electronics professionals at Roanoke, Va.-based Sound Decision, Fiske programmed the system to operate lights, thermostats, whole-house audio and video, security, swimming pool and spa, window shades, sprinklers, fountains and a wine cellar. “We wanted to prove how the system would be able to simplify the operation so many different types of products in a residence of this size,” says Fikse.

After living with the inFusion system and Equinox keypads for several months, the verdict was in: Ordinary, daily routines like shutting down the house for the night were significantly more convenient and efficient for the Fikse family to handle. The system also enabled the Fikses, through a menu of commands called Profiles, to easily control only those items within a particular room. “I can walk through the house with my iPhone, and when I approach a room, the Vantage app presents only those controls that are applicable for that room,” Fikse explains. This design, he says, precludes the challenge of having to scroll through a long list of options to find the commands that matter.

The real testament to the system’s simplicity, though, says Fikse, came from his wife. “With the design of this system, we were able to remove commands that didn’t matter to her and present only the ones that did, like being able to control the TV and audio in the kitchen,” Fikse explains. His profile, though, shows additional commands for the lights and security system. “This ability to streamline what you see as command option is what we found most appealing and useful,” he says. “It’s an especially nice feature if you have houseguests. You can set up profiles especially for them.”


Doug Fikse has his Vantage system programmed to control his A/V, temperature, wine closet and more.

If fact, the Fikses continually encourage their guests to use the system as a way to gauge its usability. “We entertain a lot and it’s a fascinating test to have guests put their iPod in a docking station and see how easy it if for them to control the lights, A/V etc. without knowing anything about the system.” So far, everything at the Fikse house has worked like a charm, but as with any new system, Vantage will continue to refine it as it receives feedback from users like Fikse, as well as from the CE pros who are installing it. Updating it will be a simple matter of downloading the software and the latest app, says Fikse.

If you like home automation, you’ll like these:
6 Important Pieces of Info to Share with Your Tech Installer
Integrated Control vs. Multiple Apps for Home Automation
How to Add Lighting Control to Your Home
Contact Sensors are the Secret Sauce in Home Automation
Inside the World’s Most Hands-free Home
Top 10 New Technologies for Your Home
Blending Sophisticated Tech in a Sophisticated Apartment
Mass Market Home Control, Again



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